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UK Department for Transport Launches Consultations on Use of Small Personal Electric Vehicles and Electric-Assist Bikes

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) launched a consultation on the use of small electric personal vehicles. The consultation seeks views on the principle of changing the law to permit the use of small electric personal vehicles (EPVs)—e.g., the Segway Personal Transporter or the Toyota Winglet Transporter—on public roads and cycle tracks. It does not include consideration of their use on pedestrian footways or footpaths.

At present any EPV which does not comply with existing road traffic law may only be used on private land with the landowner’s permission.

The DfT is also launching a consultation on electrically-assisted pedal cycles (EAPC). The proposals in this consultation will provide greater clarity for consumers on whether a product is considered to be an electrically-assisted pedal cycle or a motor vehicle. It also addresses harmonizing UK regulations with European standards.

Both consultations close 30 March 2010.

New technologies can offer new opportunities and this consultation offers the chance for a full consideration of the issues around electric personal vehicles. We want to hear from groups and individuals with opinions and evidence on whether the law should be changed to permit such vehicles on public roads and cycle tracks. We will then consider all the responses carefully before deciding whether any further action is required.

—Secretary Adonis

EPVs. The DfT says it is aware of one EPV which has been developed to comply with road traffic law requirements and another which is being developed to meet such requirements. With very few exceptions, powered vehicles which comply with road traffic law requirements may use the carriageway, but not cycle tracks, provided their riders comply with other relevant provisions. They are for the most part not permitted on pedestrian footways (only a very few vehicles, which comply with specific requirements, e.g. invalid carriages and cleaning machinery used by local authorities, may use such areas).

Although DfT has to date received few approaches from members of the public seeking permission to use ‘non-compliant’ EPVs, and no manufacturers or promoters have sought changes to the law except those representing Segway. However, the Secretary of State for Transport has concluded that an initial ‘in principle’ public consultation about possible changes to the law should be undertaken.

Some options to consider in the treatment of EPVs include:

  • Construction standard requirements
  • Pre-market type approval requirements
  • Roadworthiness inspection requirements
  • Driver testing/licensing requirements
  • Registration and insurance requirements
  • Use on pedal cycle facilities

EAPCs. The specification of EAPCs in the UK is currently regulated by The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983. The recent introduction of a European Standard for EAPCs created a mismatch between the European requirements and the current UK Regulations, causing confusion for both industry and consumers. The changes to legislation proposed in the consultation will address the mismatch and, in the main, provide a simplification of existing legislation.

Among the issues to be addressed are:

  • Power Limit. The UK EAPC Regulations currently permit a maximum continuous rated power of 200W for bicycles and 250W for tandems and tricycles. The European rules permit a maximum continuous rated power of 250W for bicycles, tandems and tricycles.

  • Pedaling. Pedal Assistance - Cycles that permit power assistance without the rider pedalling fall within the scope of the European Whole Vehicle Type Approval Framework Directive for motorcycles and should comply with the various standards set out therein. Regulatory requirements on licensing for riders and vehicles, insurance and taxation also apply.

  • Bicycle and Tandem Weight. Neither the European standard nor the European Whole Vehicle Type-Approval Framework Directive for motorcycles specifies a weight limit for EAPCs. The UK EAPC Regulations specify a maximum weight for bicycles of 40 kg and a maximum weight for tandems and tricycles of 60 kg.

Resources

Comments

mahonj

Some interesting questions here - mixing powered and unpowered bicycles in bike lanes.

How fast do you want the bikes to go - 20 kph, 30 kph ? 40?
Cyclists can easily do 25-30 kph, so why restrict ebikes.

40 is a bit fast - put those guys on the roads.
Segeways - NO - they are too wide and too slow (and not "bikey" enough). (And just crap).

PBikes vs e-bikes.

Both are dangerous - you have 1mm of fabric between you and the world.
E-bikes would be good in a hot country (China in summer), not needed so much in cooler places (western europe).
E bikes are a bit faster than p-bikes, particularly if the p-rider is a unfit (or old / sick etc).

However, pbikes promote personal fitness and better health, for similar commuting times, so I would swing to p-bikes (I use one) - but it is a personal thing.

From a resource use and GHC perspective, both are excellent.
It really comes down to safety vs health vs sweat.

Thomas Lankester

@mahonj

There is no real leeway on speed as the EU directive gives a limit of 25kph (~15mph) with a 250W upper limit on continuous power output. Also the vehicle has to be a pedalec so strictly speaking an e-bike should count as a moped. The translation to UK legislation goofed a bit, limiting output for bicycles to 200W not 250W whilst allowing e-bikes.

It seems like this consultation is looking at addressing these discrepancies but also tackling the issue of non-conventional low speed EVs.

Is the SegWay really wider than a bike? My handlebar width has my arms splayed out from my shoulders and a SegWay seems to be about the same. If we can have e-bikes at 15mph then why ban SegWays at 12mph? Segways give the user a good height advantage ('see and be seen') so for cycle paths and roads it is an anomaly that e-bikes are allowed (only in the UK) but SegWays are not. That said, they should have to follow the same lighting requirements as bicycles.

Henry Gibson

It is now time to present mortality statistics and injury statistics per mile of operation of bicyles and other vehicles not considered automobiles.

If there exist laws requiring the use of seatbelts and other safety devices in automobiles, it is logically consistent to even forbid the use of bicycles on public
roads due to the increased danger to their users.

To begin with, all bicycles etc. operated on public roadways should have a sealed device that measures miles of operation. These devices must be read every year automatically into a database, and cannot be tampered with etc. ..HG..

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